Today will be a busy day for us as we have to go to Atlanta to get my son who’s been studying in Tel Aviv, Israel for the past year. To save a little time I’ve reached back in my archives to this column from September of 2015. I’m sure you’ll agree with me we can always use more insight into this issue.
Whenever the subject of funerals or related topics comes up I’m reminded of a quote from the late George Luce, whose father was the founder of Blue Bird Body Co. where I spent 30 years of my working career . He said “If you don’t leave a will when you die, your lawyer and accountant will decide how to divide your estate in the third car behind the flower car on the way home from the cemetery”. You would have to know Mr. George to appreciate his sense of humor on matters such as this.
But all joking aside, it’s vitally important for seniors to have a will whether your estate is simple or complicated. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your heirs. After preparing your will the next most important question is who will be your executor(s) to carry it out?
To help you answer that question, it’s worth considering some of the duties of an executor:
Pay the account of the funeral director.
Locate all life insurance policies and notify the insurance company of the death and forward a copy of the death certificate to have the policy paid to the beneficiary.
Notify all insurance companies including house insurance and car insurance of the death and ensure that insurance is maintained until the estate is settled.
Make a list of all the assets and including stocks, bonds, pension funds, bank accounts, government investments, work related life insurance or benefits for the spouse etc.
Locate the previous several years’ income tax returns and provide copies to the lawyer or tax accountant. These must be reviewed quickly to ensure that no filing dates are missed.
These are just a few of the duties to help you get a feel. For a more detailed list go to: http://www.estatesettler.com/ or similar website.
The list of duties can be quite daunting if the estate has any complexity to it at all. So how should a senior choose an executor? First of all I’d suggest you consider the kind of character qualities you should look for: Integrity, reasonable intelligence, persistence (to follow through on the details), compassion and sensitivity yet firmness to deal with potentially conflicting family interests, good communication skills, and geographic proximity to your estate. Again, this is a just a starter list of what my wife and I were looking for when we chose our oldest son to be our executor. We are very fortunate to have five wonderful kids all of whom could meet these criteria but we selected the oldest son at the time we did our will.
Finally, I want to share with you one of the primary tools I’ve provided for our executors. It’s a word document on my computer called “Executor Instructions” which is backed up by an external hard drive. That document , which I try to update monthly, has information on all our bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions, Social Security benefits, attorney and accountant contacts, etc. as well as a checklist of executor duties so they’ll know what they’re supposed to do when we’re gone.
The book of Ecclesiastes says that for everyone there is “….A time to be born and a time to die….”. This is a statement that is 100% true for 100% of us no matter what your belief system. It behooves all of us, especially seniors, to be as prepared for this part of life as we were for our retirement.
Thanks for reading All About Seniors…..see you next week!
Bill Milby, CSA, is a Certified Senior Advisor and a Director of Visiting Angels® of Macon, a non-medical, living assistance service for seniors. If you have questions or comments about this column you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org